In one of the largest cocaine busts in Gila County, a 57-year-old Colorado man was found guilty of possessing more than $2 million worth of cocaine in his minivan, Nov. 21 in a Gila County courtroom.
A jury convicted Arturo Sanchez-Naranjo of possessing both a narcotic drug and drug paraphernalia for sale. He faces 2.3 to 10.75 years in prison. Judge Robert Duber II, will sentence Sanchez-Naranjo Dec. 15.
In March of 2008, DPS Officer Larry Anthony stopped Sanchez-Naranjo for speeding on highway 77, located south of Globe.
Sanchez-Naranjo claimed he traveled to Tucson from his home in Colorado to play tennis.
Anthony suspected Sanchez-Naranjo’s story could be a lie and after issuing a written warning for speeding, asked to search the minivan.
Sanchez-Naranjo agreed to the search and with the help of other DPS officers, Anthony noticed an area near the back hatch had been tampered with.
A hidden compartment that contained 14 packages of cocaine weighing approximately 2.5 pounds each was found near the hatch.
Sanchez-Naranjo was arrested and the Gila County Narcotics Task Force was called in to assist.
A further search of the vehicle uncovered two more hidden compartments where six additional packages were located. The total weight of cocaine seized was 50 pounds with a street value of over $2 million.
Deputy County Attorneys James Parker and Pascal Brown prosecuted the case.